In the article of – well, of heads or tails

Early in May 1884 RLS again fell very dangerously ill with hemorrhage of the lungs, and lay for several weeks between life and death.

[For correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 4, 1276.]

To Edmund Gosse [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 219-220]

[La Solitude, Hyères] From my bed, May 29, 1884

Dear Gosse,

The news of the Professorate found me in the article of – well, of heads or tails; I am still in bed, and a very poor person. You must thus excuse my damned delay; but, I assure you, I was delighted.


Edmund Gosse (here in a portrait by Singer Sargent, 1886) had written to say that he had been appointed Clark Lecturer in English Literature at Trinity College, Cambridge []


Cambridge University, Great Court, Trinity College, 19th century []


You will believe me the more, if I confess to you that my first sentiment was envy; yes, sir, on my blood-boltered couch I envied the professor.


T. Chassérieau , Banquo, c. 1855. “Horrible sight! Now I see ’tis true; For the blood-boltered Banquo smiles upon me” (Macbeth IV, 1) []



However, it was not of long duration; the double thought that you deserved and that you would thoroughly enjoy your success fell like balsam on my wounds. How came it that you never communicated my rejection of Gilder’s offer for the Rhone?


Richard Watson Gilder (1844-1909), American poet and editor of the Century Magazine NY, 1881-1909 []

But it matters not. Such earthly vanities are over for the present. This has been a fine well-conducted illness. A month in bed; a month of silence; a fortnight of not stirring my right hand; a month of not moving without being lifted. Come! Ça y est: devilish like being dead. – Yours, dear Professor, academically,


I am soon to be moved to Royat; an invalid valet goes with me! I got him cheap – second-hand.

Royat, Puy de Dome, Auvergne []

H. Gerbault (1863-1930), Les Proverbes en images []


In turning over my late friend Ferrier’s commonplace book, I find three poems from Viol and Flute copied out in his hand: ‘When Flower-time,’ ‘Love in Winter,’ and ‘Mistrust.’ They are capital too. But I thought the fact would interest you. He was no poetist either; so it means the more. ‘Love in W.!’ I like the best. 



Gosse’s book of poems, 1873 []




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